Roger Ballan’s photographs, from his recent exhibition ‘Shadow Land 1983 – 2011,’ are haunting, dark, strange, black and white images of people and places in South Africa and are reminiscent of the work of Diane Arbus and Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachian portraits. I’ve never seen his work before – I came across it the other day while looking for something else – however the images have lingered with me ever since and so I thought I’d share them with you. They’re pretty disturbing, shocking even but Ballan manages to quell the exploitative elements of the portraits by lending a degree of empathy to his subjects.
Ballan has been shooting in monochrome for nearly 50 years, from his renowned documentary images of South African villagers to his recent work which he describes as ‘documentary fiction’ where the line between reality and fantasy is deliberately blurred, the images painterly and sculptural in ways not immediately associated with photography – extraordinary explorations of the psyche and its aesthetic.
Here’s what he has to say about his work:
I have been shooting black and white film for nearly fifty years now. I believe I am part of the last generation that will grow up with this media. Black and White is a very minimalist art form and unlike color photographs does not pretend to mimic the world in a manner similar to the way the human eye might perceive. Black and White is essentially an abstract way to interpret and transform what one might refer to as reality. My purpose in taking photographs over the past forty years has ultimately been about defining myself. It has been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey.
If an artist is one who spends his life trying to define his being, I guess I would have to call myself an artist.
The images above are from his ‘Shadow Land’ exhibition which was recently on at The Manchester Art Gallery in the UK .
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